I think somewhere it is in the back of our minds. We may not realize it, but it is there, especially if it was a family member that was killed. You just have it in the back of your head that you don’t trust anybody.

Henry Roan’s great-grandson volunteers the above opinion to Grann in the “Ghostlands” chapter from the book’s third section. In it, he suggests that a lack of trust can be passed down across generations, creating communities of mistrust that span decades or centuries. Even though some of the crimes were solved, the many mysterious deaths that could not be explained, as well as the extent of the conspiracy’s reach, establishes something that can be likened to haunting. Rather than beginning from a trust in humanity, the specter of past crimes makes mistrust and suspicion the better default position. Such feelings of fundamental insecurity limit a person’s capacity for happiness such that the Reign of Terror’s reach can still be felt in the twenty-first century.

The murders had created a climate of terror that ate at the community. People suspected neighbors, suspected friends. Charles Whitehorn’s widow said she was sure that the same parties who had murdered her husband would soon "do away with her."

As the death toll climbed in Osage County, members of the tribal community took various steps to protect themselves, like getting additional dogs or adding outdoor lighting, yet these measures could not allay the pervasive feeling of terror that eroded the community’s security and trust. As the above passage from “This Thing of Darkness” establishes, everyone felt vulnerable but no one knew how to protect themselves from the unknown enemies. The trials made clear they were right to doubt even those who were closest to them. The Burkhart brothers had participated in the killings of family members, guardians had caused their wards to die, even the doctors had laced medicine with poison. Despite this suspicious climate, though, the Osage continued to support those who helped them, as the fact that Osage families took in some of W. W. Vaughan’s ten children reveals. Even when it is easier to doubt, generosity is possible, albeit rare.

He went on, "On your return tell your people that I take them all by the hand; that I become their father, that they shall know our nation only as friends and benefactors." But within four years Jefferson had compelled the Osage to relinquish their territory between the Arkansas River and the Missouri River

“Underground Reservation” provides a historical overview of the relationship between the Osage nation and the United States, beginning with Thomas Jefferson’s early meeting with tribal representatives in 1804. The above passage shows how quickly the United States revealed itself to be unworthy of Native American trust. In a mere four years, the friendship that Jefferson had promised was abandoned, replaced by coercion and threat. If they did not accede to the demands, an Osage chief noted, they would now number the United States among their enemies. Sudden reversals were common during the nineteenth century and created a reasonable feeling of distrust among the indigenous populations. The history of the relationship between the Osage and the United States is consistently characterized by betrayal and violence, sometimes threatened, other times actual. As the book reveals, the behavior of white Americans, greedy for Osage land and wealth, raised questions about which population could be deemed civilized.